Saturday, December 10, 2016

REVIEW: Wicked

HKAPA Lyric Theatre, Friday December 9

Last night, Wicked premiered in Hong Kong 13 years after it opened in Broadway. For me, it joins an elite group of musicals that I have seen repeatedly onstage - The Phantom of the Opera (New York, London, Cardiff, Melbourne and Hong Kong); Miss Saigon (New York, London, Melbourne and Hong Kong); Les Miserables (New York, Melbourne, Manila, Hong Kong); and now, Wicked (New York, Manila and Hong Kong). While initial response to Phantom and Saigon was good, Les Miz and Wicked share the rare notoriety of having opened to mixed reviews but still managed to become massive successes! It just shows that not even the most experienced and respected critics can always get them right; and that the general audience and their words-of-mouth are what really count!


Last night's performance was spectacular. While Eugene Lee's set may not be as massive as the Broadway version, it still managed to impress. Susan Hilferty's costume was definitely a highlight, they never stop to amaze me in their creativity, sophistication and cohesiveness.


As to the performers, they made me realize how ingrained is the image of a tall Elphaba (Idina Menzel in New York and Jemma Rix in Manila) and a short Glinda (Kristin Chenoweth in New York and Suzie Mathers in Manila) in my mind that seeing Jacqueline Hughes (Elphaba) and Carly Anderson (Glinda) about the same height bothered me irrationally! Hughes definitely has the vocal chop to meet her demanding role. Her big anthem Defying Gravity finished the first act to great effect. Anderson was very effective but I did wish that her enunciation was a bit clearer. Whether it was the sounds or her diction, I was not sure.


Perhaps the one single biggest disappointment I had was from the more experienced actor Kim Ismay who played Madame Morrible. She definitely gave me the feeling that she was bored and was just doing her performance as part of a routine. An example would be when Elphaba confronted the Wizard and announced that she wanted nothing to do with his plan, Ismay procedurally acted shocked and looked offstage as if Elphaba has already ran off when in fact Elphaba was just about to!

In totality, Wicked is a great story told in the most beautiful way. Stephen Schwartz's music and lyrics provided just the right dramatic language and color to communicate this unusual narrative in charting how Elphaba came to be “wicked"; and the parallel journey of Glinda the "good". I heard that the production will be in Manila in 2017. Will I go and see it again? I just might.

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